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Out of sight, not out of mind

For a year now, John Boyd has worked to provide relief to injured and ill. He’s neither a priest, nor a doctor. And, he’s not a government worker.

On Jan. 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. Hundreds of thousands were displaced, injured or killed. Hundreds of organizations flocked to the island in the Caribbean, but few were able to get relief effort to those who needed it most.

Nampa-based Mission Aviation Fellowship was one of a handful of organizations to land a plane with relief help.

Now, cooperating with 60 other organizations, the group flies missions daily. MAF transports medical personnel and aid workers, delivers critical relief supplies and performs emergency medical evacuations. In addition, the group has transported deliveries of food, water and medical supplies -including intravenous solution.

But, not many people are aware that MAF, led by CEO John Boyd, continues to fly to 16 airstrips on the island on almost a daily basis.

“I think it’s the pace at which our world moves and the fact that it was such a huge incident,” he said. “Once the real spot light goes off, it dies. It’s not world news, it’s not topical, now it’s distilled down to the reality of life.”

The fact it’s not on page one, at the top of the news hour, or on the magazine cover, doesn’t lessen the difficulty this business faces.

Mission Aviation Fellowship is a nonprofit, religious aviation organization with a $30 million annual operating budget and 160-plus employees. In 2006, the group relocated to the Nampa Municipal Airport, occupying a 33,000-square-foot office building and 23,000-square-foot hangar.

MAF’s nearly 60 airplanes log about 3.2 million miles a year, largely in remote regions. MAF operates at 41 bases around the world, and taps commercial instrument-rated pilots, most of whom also have aviation maintenance certifications.

There are three theories that apply to the spotlight.

The nature of news, is immediate, recent or timely, Kenton Bird, director of School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho, said.

“News is what’s happening right now, and history is what has happened last year,” he said.

Last year there were a series of natural disasters – volcanoes, earthquakes, mudslides and more.

“It’s mostly what’s at the top of the news disaster,” he said.

In addition, the public’s attention span is getting shorter because of the 24-7 news cycle.

“The American public has never had much to do with the international news, ” he said, “but the ability to have the news at your hand is even further shortening that attention.”

And, more likely, the news on the web is self-selective.

“They choose politics, finance, sport, entertainment; they are not going to be exposed to news they are not going to seek out,” he said.

Network news, where people are exposed to a variety of news topics, will be providing a variety of stories from throughout the world.

“The conventional newspaper exposes you to international news on your way to the national and local news that you’d be interested in.

“People just don’t get the broad exposure: The ‘wow’ factor,” he said.

If readers are zeroing in on WAC football, Hollywood or business, they are not going to be as exposed to conventional news.

In terms of attention span, and the ability to contribute to relief efforts, people tend to burn out fairly quickly on disasters, but they are more likely to contribute to a cause they are personally connected to.

“In regards to Idaho, there already is that special connection to Haiti,” he said.

Boyd agrees.

MAF finds its commitment to the Haitian people its most binding.

“We have to internally try to keep that long term recovery before the people who help us with the organization,” he said.

People have forgotten, the spotlight is off, most people have forgotten. Donations have waned.

“There was an incredible outpouring, but life goes on,” he said, adding he understands. “Many families are struggling, with their own family, to make ends meet.”

A year ago in January, the small island of Haiti was rocked.
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Robb Hicken is managing editor of the Idaho Business Review.



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